Vehicles have come a long way since the creator of the first gas-powered automobile crashed his car into a post.

Technology is evolving quickly, and tier one suppliers are racing to keep up. The software-defined industry of today means traditional manufacturers are now having to compete with tech-centric suppliers, as conventional engineering gets replaced with integrated systems that cater to the lifestyle of the modern digital consumer.

To keep pace, vehicle producers need to adopt a new approach, moving away from a traditional manufacturing focus and assuming a digital mindset. And this must start at the helm.

embracing cultural change

To truly embody a software-centric mindset, leaders must understand – and exemplify – the need for a completely new way of working.

Forget the office-based 9-5 jobs of old. The industry now calls for innovators who are driven by a desire to set trends and break new ground over boosting the bottom line. It’s a strange new world for leaders who cut their teeth in a traditional manufacturing environment, but the agility and inventiveness of the modern tech-driven business requires an outlook to match.

Tech is no longer confined to isolated offshoots of a larger corporation; it’s now part of the organizational fabric, and this requires a full-scale mindset change from the top down. This, of course, poses a complex situation for traditional manufacturers, where the businesses have been built around conventional production-line processes rather than cutting-edge software.

However, to avoid losing ground against software-centric competitors, leadership’s revenue-driven focus must shift. By truly understanding what technology brings to the table, leaders can facilitate widespread adoption of the latest tools and processes, helping their business secure a foothold in the software-driven industry of the future.

big data benefits

For leaders who are still fundamentally driven by the bottom line, there are still reasons to embrace new technology.

Big data tools are unparalleled in their ability to streamline manufacturing operations, using analytics to minimize manufacturing waste, organize logistics and optimize resource allocation. These insights also help anticipate disruptions, avoiding downtime; identify alternate material sources when needed, ensuring the supply chain doesn’t break at crucial moments; and realize a level of product consistency that conventional processes could never match.

Vitally, data-driven insights can identify patterns in manufacturing data that are undetectable to the human eye; reducing defects, improving quality and ensuring safe, consistent delivery of vehicle components. By using this data to inform decision-making, leaders can mitigate risks, keep their workforce abreast of important information and ultimately keep end-users safer.

the impact of AI

Data gives insights on consumer behaviors and preferences, and AI analytics distill this into usable information. The more diverse the data, the more accurate AI predictions can be, and the easier it is for manufacturers to respond accordingly. This facilitates tailored product offerings for individual customers, helping achieve a competitive edge through personalized service.

AI also takes the guesswork out of vehicle maintenance by allowing suppliers to analyze real-time data from connected vehicles and production systems to predict when components might fail. In an increasingly software-driven society, drivers rely on suppliers to manage the safety and performance of their cars’ smart systems, and a well-apprised management team is key to this. Accurate, quick-time decision-making makes all the difference when it comes to keeping vehicles safe and well maintained – so leaders must leverage the tools at their disposal to keep their knowledge relevant and useful.

By identifying trends, both in terms of customer feedback and the wider industry, AI enables suppliers to quickly identify opportunities for innovation, upkeep and performance enhancement. Leaders and decision-makers can then leverage these insights to get the jump on their competitors, disrupting the industry with fast and original product development that aligns with market shifts.

handling skill gaps

As vehicle components become more sophisticated, there is a growing demand for engineers who are capable of creating, maintaining and fixing highly complicated pieces of electronic kit. This, in turn, requires a more intricate quality assurance process to ensure that vehicles meet stringent safety, reliability and performance standards. Technical sales teams must also have in-depth knowledge of how software-defined vehicles work, in order to communicate effectively with customers and address their needs. And it’s up to leadership to ensure their people are equipped for the job.

They have two choices here: upskill the current workforce, or hire new, plug-and-play engineers who already possess the requisite knowledge and skills.

To attract top talent, companies must be able to offer roles that cater to the tech world’s tendency towards creativity and job satisfaction – and this, in itself, requires a mindset shift from the managers in charge of hiring. Tech-focused engineers want to join digital-first organizations, and leaders must buy in to this mentality to draw those candidates in.

When it comes to upskilling existing workers, it’s a case of leading by example. By empowering staff to acquire new skills and adapt to evolving technologies, tier one suppliers will not only be able to close skills gaps but also create a workforce that is innovative, agile and ready to meet the needs of the modern automotive industry.

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